Meet the Team

Lauren Czajka
Executive Director

Lauren joined the YouthRoots crew in 2013. Her background is in experiential education and she holds an MA in Human Rights from the University of Denver. Her favorite activity is doing anything outside with her husband and toddler. She loves working with inspiring youth who make the world a better place.

Erin Button
Program Manager

Erin joined the YouthRoots team in October 2018 after moving to Colorado from Chicago. She has a Masters of Nonprofit Management from DePaul University and over 10 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. During her free time, Erin enjoys reading, baking, and hiking with her husband and two fur-babies.

Susie Roman
The YouthScan Project Director

Susie Roman has been leading collaborative teams for 15+ years to advance the impact of nonprofit organizations in mental health, gender-based violence prevention, LGBTQ+ advocacy, positive youth development and social justice. She is thrilled to serve on the YouthRoots team as The YouthScan Project Manager. She is passionate about elevating youth voice on issues that affect their lives and looks forward to bringing her background in program development, outcomes evaluation, communications and fundraising to this innovative project. Susie holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of British Columbia. When she is not working, Susie loves roller skating, dancing, aerial, lounging in hot tubs, and spending time with her friends and family.

Alyssa Hornyak
Program & Admin Coordinator

Originally from Michigan, Alyssa’s love of the mountains brought her to Denver to pursue her Master of Social Work at DU. She completed her practicum with YouthRoots and transitioned to full-time in August 2019. She brings experience and a passion for youth empowerment to YouthRoots. Outside of the office, Alyssa loves hiking, traveling, and exploring Denver.

Jenn Ragain
Program Coordinator

Jenn received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Denver in 2017 after completing her practicum with YouthRoots. Her expertise is in operations and program development with a passion for youth voice. In her spare time, she enjoys being outside with her partner and dog or snuggling with her cats. 

Claire Beutler
Program Coordinator

Claire joined the YouthRoots team in November 2021. She is from the Western Slope. Her involvement from a young age with Special Olympics Colorado is where her passion for service and advocacy was born. Claire is a Daniels Scholar who received her Bachelors from Regis University in 2020. She is a proud advocate for the disabled and LGBTQ+ communities. Claire enjoys crossword puzzles and spending time with her animals and family in the mountains.

Alyssa Chavez
Admin Assistant

Alyssa Chavez is a part-time administrative assistant for YouthRoots while earning her bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Relations at the University of Colorado Denver. A YouthRoots alum, Alyssa has always had a passion for youth empowerment. At home, she enjoys spending time with her friends and her dog. Alyssa also has a love for traveling, reading, and movies. 

Jayda Hammermeister
MSW Intern

Jayda Hammermeister is interning at YouthRoots while completing her MSW at Denver University. She moved to Colorado from San Diego to get her bachelor's degree in Social Work at Colorado State University. She's very passionate about giving individuals space to share their stories and be heard. In her free time, she loves going to concerts, making art, and hanging with her dog. 

Aaron Earley
Facilitator - South Denver YouthBoard

Aaron earned his Masters of Social Work from the University of Denver while completing his practicum with YouthRoots in 2014. He is now a Program Specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and serves as the South YouthBoard Facilitator.

Javon Brame
Facilitator - Central Denver YouthBoard

Javon was born and raised in Colorado and grew up in Northeast Denver (Park Hill).  He is ardent about advocating on behalf of others and being a conduit for the voices of constituencies, as well as seeking to disrupt traditional notions of philanthropy by giving his time, talent, treasure and testimony. He is the past board chair and grant chairman for Denver African American Philanthropists and served on the non-profit internship committee at the Denver Foundation. Most recently, Javon was appointed to serve as a founding advisory committee member for the Black Resilience in Colorado Fund (BRiC) at the Denver Foundation.

Zach Booz
Facilitator - Aurora YouthBoard & CEI Youth Council

Like Chauncy Billups and Chipotle, Zach was born in Denver and has been proud to call Colorado home for most of his life. Zach has spent the bulk of his professional career working in youth development, education and facilitation. He’s worked with young people all over the world in and out of the classroom. He’s also heavily involved with The Chinook Fund, a local grassroots social justice fund. Outside of work, Zach enjoys reading or sleeping under a tree, snuggling his dog, watching TV, dancing in his kitchen, singing in his shower, cooking with his partner, backpacking with friends and/or soaking his body in hot springs.

Katie Bailey
Facilitator - North Denver YouthBoard

Katie previously served as a YouthRoots facilitator for two years and is happy to return to the organization. Her background is working with schools to plan, develop, and implement post-secondary readiness programs in diverse learning communities. Her expertise includes helping first-generation students navigate the college application process and overcome systemic barriers to persist in college. Katie has been working with youth in an advocacy role since 2000 and is passionate about helping youth fulfill their dreams. She resides in Carbondale and enjoys soaking up the Colorado sun with her husband and two boys.

Corey Mastroianni
Facilitator - Douglas County YouthBoard

Corey works as a school social worker at Morgridge Academy, a K-8 school for kids with chronic illnesses on the National Jewish Health hospital campus. She grew up in Colorado Springs, CO and stayed close to home for school white getting her Bachelor’s degree at CU Boulder and Master’s at University of Denver. She's passionate about supporting communities through schools and empowering youth for positive change. 

Karina Corral
Facilitator - Boulder 15 Forever YouthBoard

Karina Corral was born and raised in Colorado into a family who supports the Raiders for some reason (Go Broncos). She graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in International Affairs. She is passionate about education, cultural studies, policy work, empowering youth, equity and the Great British Baking Show. She currently works as Manager of Community Engagement and Equity for YWCA Boulder County. 

Ann Kolbrek
Facilitator - Sioux Falls Youth Advisory Council

Ann is the facilitator for the Youth Advisory Council of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation which uses the YouthRoots program to empower youth to make a difference! She was in YAC with our founder when the idea of YouthRoots was planted.

Melissa Heston
Facilitator - Yellow Springs Youth Action Board

Melissa has more than 40 years' experience as a competitive athlete, fitness professional, and dance/theatre artist. She holds a BFA and MFA in Dance and has worked with several nonprofits, universities, and schools in the US in a variety of positions. A “jack of all trades,” she has nimbly shifted from providing food to the food insecure during the pandemic, to ushering the Yellow Springs Schools through the Youth Action Board, scholarship and grant processes, to overseeing the Foundation's social media presence, all while maintaining her full-time job as owner of a personal training company. During her free time, Melissa enjoys partaking in outdoor activities - from gardening to hiking, biking, kayaking, and just sitting by water and watching the waves roll by. Melissa is the wife of Mary Kay Smith (a local business owner) and a mother of 3.

Sean Kloppenburg
Facilitator - Hemera Beacons

Sean Kloppenburg is a Program Associate at Hemera Foundation with experience in education, mindfulness, and philanthropy. Working in the philanthropic sector since 2017, he also taught Social Studies, Health, and personal finance at the High School level. He is a Naropa University certified meditation instructor and has an M.A. in Contemplative Education.

Brianna Apodaca
Facilitator - Pueblo Youth Action Council
Brianna is a proud Colorado Native, born and raised in the San Luis Valley. She has been passionate about empowering youth since she was in high school. She received her undergraduate degree from Colorado College in Anthropology. She is a 2018 Teach for America Corps Member and recently completed her Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado-Denver. She enjoys working with youth to build their leadership skills and become activists in their community. She believes that students should have a voice and have the ability to impact and change the world around us. She currently serves as an Exceptional Student Services Generalist teacher in Pueblo at Pueblo Academy of Arts.
Angela Adams
Facilitator - SCYC Youth Leadership Council

Angela began working with youth in 2001 during her year with AmeriCorps. After moving to Cortez, CO with her husband in 2005, Angela went into the education sector and taught for 12 years. She enjoys spending time with her wonderful daughter and amazing family and friends, swimming in natural bodies of water, listening to music, dancing, cross country skiing, reading, watching movies, and traveling. Angela is currently a Program Coordinator at SCYC Listens.

Ashley Jaramillo
Facilitator - Caring for Denver Youth Advisors

Ashley Jaramillo serves as the Student Events Coordinator in the Office of Student Life at the Community College of Denver. In her role she creates opportunities of engagement for her students by creating diverse and inclusive events. Ashley’s passion is to work with young people and create a sense of community and belong for everyone.

Alexandria Timoll
Curriculum Specialist

Alexandria's journey in the classroom started five years ago after graduating from Brooklyn College with a degree in Childhood Education and Psychology. She continued her education at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and earned her MA in teaching with a concentration on urban education. Her passion for urban education drives the work she does in the classroom, writing curriculum, and mentoring preservice teachers.

Karen Yi
Communications Coordinator

Karen Yi is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles and participated on the Douglas County Youth Board during high school. She started web design as a college freshman as a way to combine her interests in art and computer science. In the past, she has designed T-shirts, posters, banners, flyers, and murals for various school organizations. She hopes to open her own online store one day.

Board of Directors

Katie Payer
Chair

Katie owns Katie Payer Consulting, which provides clients with focused and high-quality support in creating engaging, thoughtful, and impactful programs to fill the void in events and company content. Previously, Katie was the VP of Communications at Young Americans Center for Financial Education. Katie graduated from Santa Clara University with degrees in marketing and communication. She resides in Denver with her husband, daughter, and son.

Katie Peterson
Vice Chair

Katie Peterson is a Senior Principal in Accenture’s Communications and High-tech Strategy practice. Her experience includes consulting to software and telecommunications companies where she has helped clients in the areas of growth strategy, go-to-market strategy and merger integration.

Lisa Rucker
Secretary

Lisa Rucker joined the Gates Family Foundation in April of 2014. She is the primary Foundation staff for the capital grants program, and oversees the Foundation's grant management system. Lisa is a graduate of Towson University in Maryland. In her free time, Lisa enjoys playing outside with her family and perfecting her Pho recipe.

Steve Szymanski
Treasurer

Steven grew up in Winnetka, Illinois and attended the University of Denver for business. After serving in Vietnam, he completed a 40 year career as a Commercial Real Estate Developer. Steven is married and has a daughter who is currently a CSU student.

Lacey Books
Founder

Lacey’s long-standing passion with youth philanthropy began in high school in Sioux Falls, SD. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a BA in Neuroscience and went on to earn her teaching certificate. In 2010, Lacey decided it was time to follow her true passion, inspiring youth to act on their big ideas. Lacey enjoys spending time with her three daughters and husband, as well as sailing, skiing, and hiking.

Eyana Geda
Youth Representative

Eyana is a senior at Cherokee Trail High School who has been a part of YouthRoots for 2 years now as part of her commitment to social justice and working in the community. She has been involved in community service-driven clubs and organizations through her school, which led to her joining YouthRoots through their YouthBoard program, then later as an Executive Committee member. She is excited to serve as a Youth Representative on the Board of Directors.

Brian Gonzales
Board Member

Brian is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Addiction Counselor dedicated to the growth and development of helping professionals, inclusive learning and community partnerships, and best practices for client and worker success. He is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs at the Graduate School of Social Work, and sits on various boards and committees at the school.

Kira Isenhart
Youth Representative

Kira is a senior at Cherry Creek High School and has been involved with YouthRoots for two years, having served on the South Board in 2019 and 2020. Aside from YouthRoots, she is involved in Speech and Debate, Model U.N., Key Club, Swim Team, and state politics. In her free time, she likes to go on hikes with her family, walk her dog, or hang out with friends.

Miguel In Suk Lovato
Board Member

Miguel has a bachelor’s in Psychology and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado-Denver. He has worked directly with low-income and at-risk youth in various capacities. Miguel is currently a Senior Program Officer with the Colorado Health Foundation. At home, he enjoys watching Star Wars movies with his daughter.

Dele Johnson
Board Member

Dele is a 21st century “Renaissance Man” when it comes to digital communications and media. As a Communications Associate at The Denver Foundation, he supports both internal and external communications. His role with the Foundation spans from website and social media content management to helping his colleagues understand and use the latest features on Zoom. Dele is a passionate and dedicated volunteer in the Denver community.

K.C. Matthews
Board Member

K.C. holds a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and is a registered Professional Engineer. He is presently the Traffic Standards and Specifications Manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation. K.C. is very active in the Denver Metro Area and has received numerous community service awards for his work. He and his wife of 25+ years, Mary, have three children (one a YouthRoots alumnae!) and one granddaughter.

Adam Sands
Board Member

Adam Sands is an Executive Vice President for FirstBank, specializing in real estate lending. He currently serves on the Denver Civic Ventures Board for the Downtown Denver Partnership and is an active member of multiple committees. Adam is also a Board Member of the KATA Foundation. Adam received his degree in Business from the University of Northern Colorado and a Graduate Banking degree from the Pacific Coast Banking School in Seattle, WA.

Teah Selkin
Board Member

Teah is a rising junior at Columbia University studying Financial Economics with a concentration in Educational Studies. After serving on the South Denver YouthRoots Board from 2017 to 2019, she became passionate about leveraging education and philanthropy to drive positive social change. Teah is a strong advocate for youth empowerment and dedicates her time as a mentor to younger students in both Denver and New York.

Nina Vendhan
Board Member

Nina is a native of Colorado. She attended Kent Denver and later graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in economics and mathematics. She was the editor of two best-selling economics textbooks and is passionate about providing quality education to children worldwide. In addition to volunteering and fundraising in her local community, Nina has conducted award-winning economic research on how to improve India's school system. She is also an advisory council member of the inaugural Women and Girls of Color Fund. Nina enjoys skiing and hiking in her free time. 

Aimee Yan
Board Member

Aimee Yan is a first year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing degrees in Public Policy and Social and Economic Justice. Her time as a Jefferson County YouthBoard member and YouthRoots intern inspired her passion for social justice, equitable education access, and youth empowerment. She is involved in the community as a Development Officer for the Institute of Politics, volunteer for the Asian American Center, and research assistant studying the impacts of COVID-19 on first-generation college students. She spends her free time cooking, reading, and hammocking in the Rocky Mountains.

YouthRootsMeet the Team